Acts 5:12-16 Video Devotional

“Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.” (Acts 5:12-16)

I am guessing that some of that fear was a direct result of what happened with Ananias and Sapphira, the married couple who withheld some of their money from the sale of their home and lied about it. God took care of them swiftly and fatally. Their execution at the doorposts was not because of they didn’t sell everything or give every penny they had – it was because they lied and hid back some. Had they been honest, there wouldn’t have been an issue.

As shown in that story and after, Peter and the apostles were letting the Holy Spirit be fully in control and following with abandon. Chapter 5 showcases how little the apostles themselves had anything to do with what was going on. Peter did not tell Ananias he would die, he just called him out for lying to God; with Sapphira however, he guessed she would receive the same fate her husband was given. He also had little to do with his shadow healing the sick.

These, to me, are clearly the Acts of the Holy Spirit and show God’s will in bringing people to Himself in a massive way to get this movement started. On our own, we have zero power or ability; it is only with Christ in us that we have the power to move mountains or do all things.

Friends, I implore you to stop trying to be powerful on your own. We all have our thorns in the flesh that prove we rely on the sufficiency of God, so let’s together stop denying that. We are weak and frail (and I know I feel that all the more during this pandemic). God, however, our Creator and Sustainer is most certainly not. He is powerful and vibrant, quickening our spirit and our bodies to accomplish His work. In fact, in Him, we are invincible until He calls us home. So don’t be afraid – but don’t you dare try to do this on your own. Ask for His strength from His Spirit to fill you and flood you with His Power.

Acts 1:6-11 Video Devotional

“So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:6-11)

What must if have felt like to watch Jesus rise up into Heaven? I bet it looked cool, but at the same time, devastating. The disciples were still trying to figure this out as they go along – after all, they survived the cross and then scored this huge victory by seeing Jesus rise from the dead – only to end up at the ascension, watching Him leave again. This time was much better than the first, but I imagine it still being quite painful.

And it is at this time Jesus lays down the action plan moving forward. We WILL be His witnesses – is that a command, or a declaration? Without going too much into semantics, it appears that this is more of a declaration that actually speaks louder than one might expect. This is what He lays down to His disciples – His goal is that the gospel would expand outward from Jerusalem and become something that would reach across the whole world. For that to happen, Rome would be a great place to see that explosion take place.

Thus, as we read through the book of Acts, we see the gospel first in Jerusalem, then moving outward all the way until we end up in Rome, with Paul on house arrest, having all sorts of people come in to talk with him and hear the gospel. It sounds like Jesus’ declaration came to fruition – at least the beginning stage of it. And that’s where the church comes in.

The title of the Book is officially “Acts of the Apostles”, though I do not think that is the best option for the title. The book launches us with the declaration and ends with the catalyst of Paul being in Rome and the gospel fully taking off around the world; but that was just the beginning – it hadn’t reached the ends of the earth yet – in fact, it still hasn’t, which means that declaration is meant to include us as well. He is using us to be His witnesses as well.

And then we have the true power behind the book. Over and over we will see as we work our way through Acts that the Holy Spirit is the One making everything happen – at one point, Peter’s shadow is performing miracles! That shows us it is actually the Holy Spirit doing the work – thus I suggest calling it “Acts of the Holy Spirit” and that title holding true today. This is His work and we are along for the ride. Enjoy this, my friends! We are along for the ride in the river of God – which He graciously allows us to participate in!

Acts 8:1-8 Video Devotional

“And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city.” (Acts 8:1-8)

Here is exile story number 3 – the great dispersion. In chapter 1, Jesus tells the disciples and those at the ascension that they WILL be His witnesses there and across the globe. It’s the same command in Genesis 9. Be fruitful and multiply. However, that isn’t how the disciples initially respond. Instead, they hide in the upper room unsure and afraid. Even after they receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the story is still centered around Jerusalem. That is, until Paul arrives on the scene (as Saul) and persecutes the believers.

Interestingly, it is Paul’s actions before his conversion that cause the great dispersion of which he would become the chief missionary. It seems, though, that the Christians in Jerusalem were kicked out of town by God through Paul’s persecution. Side point for those that are curious. Saul did not become Paul because of his conversion – Saul is simply the Jewish version of his name and Paul the Roman version.

Anyway – the dispersion is the third scriptural example of God sending out His chosen people because of a failure to get His blessings out there on their own. This command is a chief command of God and a huge part of His purposes for us – we are to be the blessing to the world by going out and sharing Jesus with others – down the street and across the oceans. If you as a believer choose not to do that, do not be surprised if your choice is taken away and you are sent out there anyway. God has a way of making sure His blessings are passed on. Pray that His will would be done in your life – willingly and joyfully.

Ezekiel 5:5-12 Video Devotional

“Thus says the Lord God: This is Jerusalem. I have set her in the center of the nations, with countries all around her. And she has rebelled against my rules by doing wickedness more than the nations, and against my statutes more than the countries all around her; for they have rejected my rules and have not walked in my statutes. Therefore thus says the Lord God: Because you are more turbulent than the nations that are all around you, and have not walked in my statutes or obeyed my rules, and have not even acted according to the rules of the nations that are all around you, therefore thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, even I, am against you. And I will execute judgments in your midst in the sight of the nations. And because of all your abominations I will do with you what I have never yet done, and the like of which I will never do again. Therefore fathers shall eat their sons in your midst, and sons shall eat their fathers. And I will execute judgments on you, and any of you who survive I will scatter to all the winds. Therefore, as I live, declares the Lord God, surely, because you have defiled my sanctuary with all your detestable things and with all your abominations, therefore I will withdraw. My eye will not spare, and I will have no pity. A third part of you shall die of pestilence and be consumed with famine in your midst; a third part shall fall by the sword all around you; and a third part I will scatter to all the winds and will unsheathe the sword after them.” (Ezekiel 5:5-12)

Going back to Abraham, God gives him a very particular promise that fits in with a particular blessing. Abraham would be blessed so that he could bless the nations around him (including the nation that would come from him). We know the full intent of this blessing is the coming of Christ into the world to save the world and that all nations would be blessed through Christ. However, as it fits with God’s nature, he sets up a “preview” of Christ’s blessing as the example of the people of Israel. They are to be a blessing to the nations around them. They are to bring people in (such as the foreigner and the sojourner) and live as examples of God’s blessing to them.

Obviously, they didn’t do it. As the above passage explains, the Israelites were no better (even worse!) than the nations around them and in no way showed or shared the blessing that God charged them with. So God acts (again) with an exile. They were scattered because they were not being the blessing they were supposed to be. In this story, forcing them to scatter wasn’t to force them to be that blessing (in a lot of ways, the nation seemed to refuse to be that blessing), but as direct punishment and, I believe as a chance for them to turn it around. A redirection, so to speak. Looking throughout history we can see quite easily that when people have it easy, they tend to get lazy. Be getting put back into a difficult situation is usually enough to get someone to shake the dust off and get back to work.

This was meant as a refining time for the Israelites; get them to remember their calling and get back to work. This holds a good warning for us as well, today. If we are going to continue to allow entitlement and expected power be our security blanket, I wouldn’t be surprised for God to shuffle things up under our feet. Who knows? Maybe even the current pandemic could be a version of that. The point is, though, again that God is all about getting His blessings out to everyone. If we aren’t doing our part (which includes actively being involved in sin and ignoring the call), we should expect to be shaken up and forced back on to our feet – because, as we pray, His will WILL be done.